Tag Archives: peter tatchell

Peter Tatchell on Bradley Manning – “A True, True Patriot”

The following is taken from an address Peter Tatchell gave at a public meeting at Giuseppe Conlon Hall on 9th July 2011.

I’d just like to end on Bradley Manning and his courageous stand. For all these months. It is really a great tribute to Bradley Manning that he has been able to stand firm and not capitulate to pressure from the authorities despite really gross ill-treatment, that probably amounts to torture under the terms of the United Nations Convention. The fact that he’s stood his ground during all those months in isolation, in solitary confinement with all the deprivations he’s suffered… that shows he is not in fact the weak man that The Guardian and others have portrayed, but that he is in fact a very strong person of great moral and physical endurance.

It is fantastic that he has remained unbowed and unbroken for all this time and fantastic that he is determined to carry on the fight.

I remember reading one of the reports about what allegedly motivated him to allegedly leak information. It was soon after he’d been sent to Iraq. He’d witnessed Iraqi police detaining people who had been protesting against the US and British backed governments over allegations of corruption and various abuses. They’d produced leaflets which criticised the government of Nouri al-Maliki over these abuse and corruption allegations. For that they were arrested and Bradley was shocked to discover that the US was colluding with the Iraqi police in the suppression of the right of freedom of protest and expression in Iraq. In this supposed new democracy, in many ways echoing the kind of oppression that existed under Saddam Hussein. When he raised this issue, he was told to go away, that more people should be arrested and detained. That is supposedly one of the things that got him thinking about and questioning the remit of the US in Iraq and perhaps led him to start questioning other things the US military was doing in Iraq and indeed in Afghanistan.

Many people call Bradley Manning a traitor. To me he is a true patriot. He is standing by the true principles and ideals of the founding people of the United States – government of the people by the people for the people. He is standing for an accountable democratic government, for the people’s right to know what the government is doing in its name. These were all the ideals on which the United States was founded, flawed though that founding document was and flawed though the practice of that document was with slavery and the abuse of Native Americans. Nevertheless those principles were there and, to me, Bradley Manning is seeking to honour them.

He is a true true patriot – you could almost say a modern Paul Revere, warning us of the abuses that are happening in our name.

I think all of us, if we were in that situation, I don’t know what we’d do. I’m sure that most of you here would certainly seriously think about blowing the whistle – but I’m sure we’d all be very nervous of the consequences, and quite rightly so. To be separated from family and loved ones, to have our future freedom diminished, to have perhaps a chosen career denied… these are all big big sacrifices. But we know that all through history, every human progress has been based on people taking risks and making sacrifices. Think of the Chartists, the Suffragettes, the Black Civil Rights movement, the struggle for people in the former colonies to win their freedom and their independence. All of these struggles were conducted at great personal risk by very very heroic individuals. And to me Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, and Bradley Manning are those kind of people and I’m really proud to support them.

The full footage of this address may be seen under the cut. Many thanks to Val Brown, who filmed the meeting.

Update

Peter Tatchell’s full address is now on youtube in two parts:

Former SAS soldier and conscientious objector Ben Griffin also spoke at the meeting, on the subject of how armed conflict is reported in the media and the official management of what information is allowed to become public. Ben Griffin’s testimony puts WikiLeaks’ release of this video, as well as the Afghanistan and Iraq War logs in their proper context.

When I left the army, I started speaking out against the [Iraq] war because I wasn’t happy with my own experience of the war compared with what was being reported back home. I wanted to get a message across of what was actually happening out there and what we were involved in.

The Government wasn’t too happy about this and they took me to the High Court. There was a secret trial and they gagged me. At the same time an internal investigation was started by the Ministry of Defence to investigate the claims that I’d made.

I was dragged into MOD and they were basically fishing to see how much information I knew. I was asking about this investigation and they were saying it was classified information I wasn’t allowed to know.

It turned out that the investigation wasn’t actually an investigation into what we were doing, it was an investigation into how much people knew and how much information they would have to give out so that the story could be put to bed. So it wasn’t a real investigation, it was just a covering arses exercise.

So I remember being asked in this interview, “So Mr Griffin, you’ve made these allegations – what evidence have you got?” And I was sat there on my own in this room thinking, well, what evidence do you want me to have? I wasn’t taking photos or keeping a diary or using a dictaphone whilst I was in Iraq. And I could see smiles on these guys’ faces because they could tell I didn’t have anything. They could continue their investigation, put out their misinformation and it would all be forgotten about.

That WikiLeaks has provided another source of evidence for conscientious objectors to cite in support of their position is, in Griffin’s view, a “victory” for those who find themselves in his position.

It is only proper to conclude this piece by mentioning that British Navy Medic Michael Lyons is currently serving a seven month prison sentence for refusing to deploy to Afganistan. Supporters will be holding a vigil at Colchester Military Corrective Training Centre on Saturday 6 August at 3pm.

British GLBT actions for Bradley Manning

Pride London 2011 takes place in a couple of weeks’ time and we are delighted that supporters of Bradley Manning will be well represented there. Queer Friends of Bradley Manning are organising a walking group on 2nd July. Do let them know if you want to be involved.

Queer Friends of Bradley Manning

Queer Friends of Bradley Manning

We also hope very much to have the campaign represented at Brighton Pride later this summer.

Payday Men’s Network together with the Global Women’s Strike are long-standing friends of this campaign and we’re very grateful to them for urging GLBT organisations worldwide to do similarly. The full text of their open letter may be read here, but here’s an excerpt:

That LGBTQ organizations and press have ignored his case is particularly outrageous in the US, where many such “representatives” of the LGBTQ community campaigned ardently for repeal of the ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy against Gay men and Lesbian women serving openly in the US military, in effect championing our ‘equal right to kill’. Why are they not going all out to defend a gay brother’s right to refuse to kill? Why is Bradley not being championed publicly as our gay hero, splashed all over the LGBTQ press to mobilize urgent support to get him released!

We say “There’s no pride in the slaughter of others!”

We take pride in our LGBTQ sisters and brothers who refuse to be killers, such as gay Filipino/Native-American Stephen Funk, the first US soldier to be convicted and jailed for refusing to fight in Iraq; Mehmet Tarhan, gay Kurdish military refuser in Turkey, whose torture and imprisonment were ended by an international campaign in which grassroots
LGBTQ organizations were prominent; and now Bradley Manning.

The campaign against the punitive conditions of Bradley’s confinement at Quantico has likewise shone a light on the solitary confinement and other torture endured by many tens of thousands of prisoners, not only but especially in the US. The blueprint for Bradley’s treatment at Quantico, for Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Baghram, is the US gulag of
civilian prisons, where most prisoners are people of color, and where especially those perceived as LGBTQ may endure endless sexual violence.

If Bradley Manning has done as alleged, his brave act is a huge service to humanity and has saved many lives. His chance of a fair trial was undermined when Barack Obama stated publicly that “He broke the law.” We invite everyone, all who stand for justice, but first of all his LGBTQ sisters and brothers and their organizations, to join the growing
worldwide campaign for freedom for Bradley Manning.

Finally, no roll-call of GLBT support for Bradley Manning would be complete without mention of Peter Tatchell‘s enormous contribution. We were thrilled to have Peter speak at our #march20 action outside the US embassy and he has given a sequence of strong statements on Bradley’s case. We would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his continued support.

Peter Tatchell

Peter Tatchell

Update

Queer Friends of Bradley Manning will be holding a banner-making event this Sunday (26.06) in preparation for Pride London. Please do contact them if you’d like to join in.

We’ve just added details of a Free Bradley Manning contingent at Chicago Pride to our events page. This means supporters of Bradley Manning have – or will be – represented at Pride events in West Hollywood, San Francisco, Chicago, Hawaii, London and (hopefully!) Brighton. This is truly impressive.

Public meeting at the House of Commons – Tuesday 24 May

The first anniversary of Bradley Manning’s arrest in Iraq falls next week, coinciding with Barack Obama’s State visit to the United Kingdom. On the eve of the US President’s address to both Houses of Parliament, there will be a public meeting at the House of Commons to discuss Bradley’s case – not least the likelihood of him receiving a fair trial.

The case of Bradley Manning:
Hero, enemy of the state, information champion, victim?

Ann Clwyd MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Rights
David Leigh, The Guardian
Emily Butselaar, Index on Censorship

pTuesday 24th May 2011, 6pm – 7.30pm
Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House, House of Commons

On the week that President Obama visits the UK and on the one year anniversary of Bradley Manning’s arrest and detention, a panel discusses the issues raised by the case of Bradley Manning and what happens now.

Bradley Manning is the US soldier accused of leaking information to the WikiLeaks website. Until 20th April, he was held in prison conditions which attracted the condemnation of human rights organisations around the world and which promoted an investigation by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.

Manning has yet to face trial, but when he does it will be in a US Court Martial. Can Manning receive a fair trial in the military courts system? What should our attitude be towards the charges levelled against Manning? What has been the effect of the WikiLeaks disclosures and what role did they play in the Arab Spring revolutions? What does the treatment of Manning say about the United States’ attitude to whistle-blowers?

This meeting is open to the public to attend.
Entry is via Portcullis House
This event is free. There is no need to register.

We look forward to seeing some of you there.

Update I

The Guardian have published this report from the meeting, focusing on Ann Clwyd’s concerns about Bradley receiving a fair trial (“it should be in public and not a closed military trial”) and Emily Butselaar’s comments on the Obama administration’s broader policy on whistleblowers.

Update II

Press resulting from our meeting has brought the issue of unlawful command influence very much back into the spotlight. As the impact of Obama’s statement depends very much on how many people get to hear about it, we are delighted to see Time Magazine include it in their reporting. In the same piece, Kevin Zeese of the Bradley Manning Support Network argues that Obama’s words have already spread so wide as to make dismissal of Bradley’s case the only sensible option:

“The only way the military can claim there is no undue influence in this case would be a charade–[it would be] officers claiming they are not [listening to] their Commander-in-chief. The military courts have held over and over that if undue influence can be proven the case should be dropped.”

Zeese added that he performed a google search with “Obama, Manning and guilty” and found 1.5 million hits on April 24, the day after Obama’s remarks hit the internet, suggesting that Obama’s comments went viral and were thus unavoidable.

We are also delighted that renowned human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has added his voice to the campaign:

“The President, who is a former lawyer, should know better. This would be contempt of court in the UK. Such a high-level assertion that Manning is guilty must seriously prejudice the likelihood that Manning will receive a fair trial,” said Mr Tatchell.

“I Am Bradley Manning”



A photo petition is now online and ready to take your submission. Contributions to date include Daniel Ellsberg, Peter Tatchell (whose wonderful piece on Bradley appeared in the New Statesman earlier this week) and former US servicemen.

Update

Courage to Resist is close to raising the $15,000 they need to rent a billboard in Washington DC to increase visibility of Bradley’s case when his Article 32 hearing (the military equivalent of a Grand Jury) begins. More on this here.

Billboard image

Coming soon to a prominent site in Washington, DC...

Update II

It took just three days to raise the $15,000 dollars needed to fund that billboard – no small feat.

#March20 reports – London, Wrexham

Around 100 protesters, including some who had traveled from Scotland and Wales, met outside the US embassy in London on Sunday to pledge their support to Bradley Manning and stand up against what is happening to him at the Quantico marine brig. They were joined by speakers Peter Tatchell, Bruce Kent, Loz Kaye, Ben Griffin, Giorgio Riva and Didi Rossi, Ciaron O’Reilly, Naomi Colvin and teenagers from Pembrokeshire in Wales.

The London event was well-reported in major media, including the Daily Mail and BBC Wales (here and here). Indymedia produced an excellent report and further photos from the event are available here and here.

IMG_7062

London #march20

A report from our Welsh group, who were well-represented at the action:

12 people came from the Welsh county where Bradley Manning went to school and his family still live to the London demo. Three girls who were contemporaries at school with Bradley said they felt they had made a real difference.

They sang a Nina Simone song, What It Means To Be Free, which they learnt over the weekend. They made personal, moving speeches. In one, Tilly Costen said “We represent the young people of Pembrokeshire, we were brought up to tell the truth and I think it is very unfair if someone is punished for telling the world the truth.” Tessa Hope said, “Bradley Manning has shown incredible courage and is doing in what he has to endure, he is an inspiration to me.” Rosey Seymour added “If the laws mean that exposing war crimes is a crime then perhaps we should look at those laws and change them.”

The group had never spoken publicly before: Tilly said the last time she tried was at school and she went to pieces and was laughed off the stage.

Kett Seymour sang Imagine as he felt Bradley Manning had an imagination of a future in which, through the internet, ‘All the world would be as one.’ He said: “I was born 20 miles from where Bradley Manning lived and I went to school in the same town. They just cant do this to one of us.”

Chris May came with his teenage daughter. He replied to an internet attack on the campaign and found he was in dialogue with a senior military officer in USA who said ‘We are the Alphas of the Alphas.’ The long dialogue ended with the officer thanking Chris and saying he had made him rethink his position, but could not continue because he was being deployed within hours in Afghanistan. Chris urged campaigners to communicate with people they do not usually speak to, and to put themselves in their shoes.

Vicky Moller, coordinating the Welsh campaign, asked: “Can a small country like Wales can take on the might of the US military and win? This is really a bigger issue than the treatment of one man, it is humanity and honesty and Hywel Da justice pitted against vengeful justice, cruelty and secrecy.”

The rally was attended by 100 people including media. The group commented that those attending were very serious and motivated, this was not a rent-a-mob situation. There were many speeches and a Bradley actor in manacles. The rally was organised by an impromptu group including the Welsh group who arranged things with the police. “A very well organised event” commented one of the officers at the end.

IMG_7130

London #march20

London was not only #March20 event taking place in the UK: there was also a vigil in Wrexham, Wales. Organiser Genny reported that:

This event was worth doing just for the interaction with local
ex-soldiers who, like so many, were obviously struggling to cope with
life after the army, but who stopped and listened, were indignant and
concerned for Bradley Manning and who wrote heartfelt letters to him
there and then and took information away with them to share. We didn’t
have to do much explaining to them about Bradley’s situation – they knew
the score straight away.

A full report, including photos, is available on Indymedia. Further images are available here.

Letter-writing in Wrexham

Letter-writing in Wrexham

#March20 proved to be an inspirational Sunday afternoon, but we are not planning to stop there. This Thursday, 24 March, there will be a public meeting in Wales. Further events will be reported on this website in due course.

Speakers announced for London #March20 event

We’re really pleased to announce that the following speakers will be joining us outside the US Embassy on Grosvenor Square in London this Sunday:

Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner
Bruce Kent, Vice-President CND
Loz Kaye, Pirate Party UK
Ben Griffin, former SAS soldier and Iraq War resistor
Ciaron O’Reilly, London Catholic Worker
Naomi Colvin, UK Friends of Bradley Manning
Current pupils from Tasker Milward School in Haverfordwest

Peter Tatchell has provided us with the following statement:

“The regime to which Bradley Manning is being subjected by the US authorities amounts to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, which is illegal under the UN Convention Against Torture and under US law. Given that Manning is a British citizen, the UK government should be demanding an end to the abuse he is suffering.”

We’re also delighted to have pupils from Bradley’s former school coming to Grosvenor Square to join us. London is a marathon journey from Pembrokeshire yet these teenage girls feel so strongly about what is happening to Bradley that they are giving up their weekend to come and address the crowd.

Please join us there. Our facebook event page is here and we’ll be meeting on Grosvenor Square at 2pm. The nearest tube stations are Marble Arch and Bond Street.